In a Car Accident What is the Difference Between No-fault and At-Fault States

When you are involved in a car accident, you can find yourself dealing with several major issues all at once. In addition to being injured, your crash may have caused you to incur medical bills, lose wages and time at work, and endure pain and suffering. It’s usually under these circumstances that an accident victim learns that their crash happened in a “no-fault” or “at-fault” automobile accident state. If you have been injured in an automobile accident, you will want to know: what is the difference between no-fault and at-fault states for a car accident?

How is Fault Determined in a Car Accident?

Automobile accidents can happen in a matter of seconds, and those involved may not have a complete picture of everything that led to the crash. So, how is fault determined in an automobile accident?

When a serious accident occurs, the police and EMS will come to the scene to assist. Insurance companies are also contacted. The police will investigate the crash and prepare a report that may assign fault to a driver. The drivers’ insurance companies will also perform investigations. In addition to reviewing the police report, the insurance adjuster will look at accident photos, EMS records, and witness statements and talk to those involved to determine liability.

The police and insurance investigation evidence and the state’s applicable laws all factor into determining who was at fault for a automobile accident. However, fault may be treated differently, depending on where you live. Raising the question: What is the difference between at-fault and no-fault car accident laws?

At Fault v. No-Fault Car Accidents

In the majority of states, when there is a automobile accident, one party is considered responsible or “at fault” for the crash and must pay for or cover the other driver’s injuries and those of injured passengers. By contrast, in a no-fault state, each person’s medical expenses are covered by their own personal injury protection (PIP) policy coverage instead of the at-fault driver’s automobile insurance. However, state laws in both at-fault and no-fault jurisdictions often vary significantly, and there can be several important distinctions.

If you have been in a automobile accident, it’s important to know which laws apply in your state. Contact an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible to learn more about how to protect your rights and get the compensation you need for your damages.

Is your State a Fault or No-Fault Car Accident State?


Twelve states follow no-fault laws as applied to automobile accident damages: Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Utah.

In a no-fault car accident state, injured parties file claims with their own insurance companies after an accident. Parties are paid for their damages up to their PIP policy limits without considering who was responsible for the accident.

PIP will cover initial medical bills and related costs. Generally, if the injured party’s costs exceed the policy’s PIP limits, which vary by state, they can seek damages (compensation) from the at-fault driver. Additionally, in some states, when a party’s injuries are more severe, victims may be able to recover additional damages for their pain and suffering.

Often, no-fault liability coverage pays for damages such as medical expenses and lost wages. PIP does not cover property damage, however. Instead, property damage claims still rely on the idea of fault. Therefore, if your vehicle is damaged in an accident in these jurisdictions, the at-fault driver would be responsible for reimbursing you through their property damage liability insurance.

In no-fault states like Michigan, drivers are required to carry PIP insurance as well as other automobile accident coverage. However, in some other no-fault jurisdictions, drivers may choose between buying no-fault and traditional auto insurance.

At-Fault States

The majority of states follow the “at-fault” model with automobile accidents. If you are involved in a car accident in an at-fault state, each person’s insurance company will review the evidence and information to determine which driver is liable for the crash. Depending on the circumstances, determining who caused and is most responsible for a car accident can be straightforward or incredibly complex.

As the name suggests, in an at-fault state, when a driver is responsible for a crash, their insurance company will have to pay the injured party’s damages. These damages may include medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. However, how victims are compensated according to liability can vary from state to state. For instance, how a state’s laws treat comparative negligence can significantly impact a personal injury case.

What is Comparative Negligence?

Comparative negligence means that when there is an accident, a driver’s percentage of liability may impact their claim. If it is determined that a driver bears some responsibility for an accident, how much that driver can recover may be reduced by their percentage of their liability. How comparative negligence works depends on the state and the model it follows.

For example, when a state observes pure contributory negligence, damages are awarded based on the assigned fault. Suppose an injured party is determined to be 20% at fault for an injury accident? Under pure comparative negligence, that party’s automobile accident claim may be reduced by 20%. If the claim was for $100,000, and the injured party was 20% negligent, they could only recover $80,000.

There are also states where another party must be at least 51% at fault for the victim to recover damages. In others, any percentage of liability may negate an injured party’s claim for damages.

If you have been involved in a automobile accident in an at-fault car accident state, you will want to work with an experienced car accident attorney to learn more about your state’s personal injury laws and how you can recover the damages you deserve.

Contact an Experienced Car Accident Attorney

The laws and rules regarding car accident liability can be complicated. An experienced car accident attorney can help you understand your rights and take the necessary steps to recover your damages. For decades, the Dailey Law Firm, P.C., has represented car accident victims and their families. We fight for our clients to get the compensation they need and deserve. Our firm knows what to do and is ready to help during every stage of your car accident case.

We proudly serve clients throughout Michigan, Indiana, Chicago, Illinois, St. Louis, Missouri, and throughout the United States. If you or a loved one have been involved in a car accident, it’s crucial that you act now to protect your right to compensation. Contact the knowledgeable and experienced auto accidents of The Dailey Law Firm P.C. today to schedule a free consultation.

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